Saturday, 13 September 2014

Eat! enough of the washing already

When I was small, trailing after my naval father, we spent a year in Malta.  It was wonderful and I wish I'd been a little older, so I could remember more. One thing my mother did which was exotically foreign was rinsing the vegetables in dilute potassium permanganate. KMnO4 is a powerful oxidising agent and the argument was that it would kill the fecal coliforms that were likely to contaminate the poor third world vegetables.  We all got impetigo [R] anyway and spent a couple of weeks using each his own towel and soap to prevent repeated reinfection.  Impetigo is highly contagious and usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus.  By careful management and topical treatment with gentian violet we all rather quickly threw off the scabs and got well.  Nowadays, 50 years later, it is usual to treat the disease with oral antibiotics which will screw up your intestinal flora as well as killing off the S. aureus. Not, in my 'umble opinion, an improvement.  This sentence no verb either.

We are obsessed with washing things which don't need to be washed.  Our hands for starters, unless you are a surgeon or a worker in the food industry there is really no need to wash your hands so often, but the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (and doubtless equivalent bodies elsewhere), would be a lot happier if food-workers didn't glove up to make a sandwich - it makes it less likely that proper hand-washing will occur. And frankly, I don't see the need to wash your hands after using a urinal - I don't see the need to wash my hands either. Not everyone agrees! I suppose pageviews for The Blob (eeeuuuuuww) will now go through the floor, even though I use rubber gloves whenever I touch the keyboard of my laptop.  JBS Haldane notably thought it was more important for scientists (who knows where their hands have been) to wash hands before the process than after.

I was surfing through a couple of weeks ago reading about an American making a fortune in the Soviet black economy.  Right at the end of his piece he noted that in 1980s USA if you wanted a drink from a water-fountain you used a waxed paper cup and threw it away afterwards - after a single use! In 1980s USSR the water fountains had a small glass on top which was used and replaced.  Nobody seemed to mind and Russian commuters didn't seem to have more (or less) impetigo, or TB than Americans.  Actually they probably did have a little more TB, but not from sharing a glass in a train-station. My tree-hugging colleagues, including me, at The Institute are fit to be tied by the policy of putting out an inexhaustible supply of plastic cups beside the water coolers in the canteen.  These are supplied in a compact sleeve, used once and then fill a huge rubbish sack.

Which is all just an introduction to a dead cool video about how to eat Sushi. Naomichi Yasuda, proprietor of the Yasuda Sushi Bar in Tokyo says that you must never shake off the soy-sauce before putting the dipped sushi morsel into your mouth. You must watch the video to hear the shaking-off joke that will embed this rule in your head. For someone so fussy about the nuance of taste that two drops less soy will appreciably change your eating experience, it is impossible to imagine him making each perfectly formed deliciousness in blue rubber gloves. They go straight from his hand to a wooden board to your mouth.  Proper order too.

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